Durbin to EPA: Make this the Last Season for the Dirtiest Ship on Lake Michigan
Senator says 2014 should be S.S. Badger’s farewell voyage
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on the Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Administrator, Susan Hedman, to enforce the consent decree and ensure that this is the last sailing season for the S.S. Badger - the only coal-fired ferry still operating in the U.S. The S.S. Badger’s final season is scheduled to begin on May 16, 2014.
Durbin wrote: “The SS Badger has had more than six years to develop a credible plan to upgrade its boiler and stop dumping tons of coal ash in the Lake. Instead, its owners have stalled, delayed, hired lawyers and asked for extensions so the S.S. Badger could continue dumping coal ash. It is time to shut this down.”
A copy of today’s letter is available here.
In September 2013, the EPA filed a revised consent decree that required the owners of the S.S. Badger to use a cleaner type of coal that produces less ash – a move that will lead to a 50% reduction in the amount of mercury dumped by the boat. The owners will also be required to report all discharges of coal ash. The revised consent decree reinforces the 2014 deadline at which point, the S.S. Badger must either cease operations or convert to another fuel type. The penalty for failing to meet that deadline is increased from $3000/day to $6000/day.
The announcement followed the EPA’s review of comments made by members of the public, environmental groups and several federal, state and local officials. On April 25, 2013, Senator Durbin submitted a formal comment to the EPA asking the agency to revise the consent decree to specify larger reductions of coal ash discharges – a 40% reduction in 2013 and a 60 % reduction in 2014 – and include stricter penalties if the S.S. Badger does not meet those requirements. Durbin also called for an explicit agreement that no more extensions will be granted to the S.S. Badger after the end of the 2014 season.
In an April 2013 news conference, Durbin joined leading environmental organizations in urging Chicagoans to tell the EPA to stand by its plans to stop the S.S. Badger’s polluting of Lake Michigan. As the ship travels from its home port of Ludington, MI, to Manitowoc, WI, it dumps 509 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year – a quantity greater than the total waste dumped annually by the 125 other largest ships operating on the Great Lakes. The coal ash contains arsenic, lead, and mercury, all of which can cause cancer when consumed in drinking water, cause serious damage to fish populations, and poison fish that are part of our food supply.
In 2011, the Chicago Tribune published a series of articles calling attention to the pollution from the S.S. Badger, which is owned by the Lake Michigan Carferry Service and is the only coal-fired ferry still operating on the Great Lakes. Every year, as the ship brings people and cars between its home port of Ludington, MI to Manitowoc, WI, it dumps 509 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan – more than the total waste dumped by the other 125 largest ships operating on the Great Lakes combined. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead and mercury, all of which cause cancer when consumed in drinking water, cause serious damage to fish populations, and poison fish that are part of the food supply.
In 2008, the S.S. Badger’s owners were granted a waiver from the EPA to continue operations while retrofitting the ship to run on diesel instead of coal. Rather than complying, they sought numerous extensions of the waiver. The Badger’s owners also negotiated an agreement with the EPA under which the ship was given a December 2012 deadline to install a new boiler that would prevent further coal ash dumping. In an attempt to circumvent the terms of that agreement the Badger’s owners then attempted to secure both the designation of the ship as a National Historic Landmark and legislative language that would exempt “vessels of historic significance” from EPA regulation of discharge. Durbin successfully blocked that language from being added to the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act last year.
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